NOTE: Leah and Jareth Smith have sold Daark Espresso and can be found at Substance Espresso, Runaway Bay.
I’m crossing that invisible line to the darkside. You may not know, but lots of punters face the daily dilemma: where can you get a decent coffee on ‘the northside’?
Decked out in black, white and grey, Daark Espresso is serious about coffee. So serious, that what started out as a tiny espresso bar is fast becoming one of the most popular little spots in Chirn Park. Drive past any morning and the foot traffic is evident.
With a background as baristas in Sydney’s CBD for 10 years, owners Leah and Jareth Smith know their coffee. The family had put down roots in the Chirn Park area (Leah’s mother owning Moss & Stone florists), so the couple garnished the talents of brother Daniel (cabinet maker) and his wife Krystal (graphic designer) as partners.
The reno was a Block-like project. Stripped back to whitewashed brick and polished concrete floor, Daark was kitted out by Daniel with funky hand-crafted timber tables, the inclusion of steel U-bar in the bar and communal table a touch of genius. Add Krystal’s design skills and the new espresso bar soon became a reality!
Daark quickly established a reputation for making one of the best coffees in the area. And at the right price.
An excellent espresso for $3.00? A flat white or cappuccino for $3.70? They’re old-fashioned prices for cutting edge coffee!
“We wanted to make great coffee but stay competitive. We’ve kept the prices down even though the customer gets more coffee,” Leah tells me.
Getting technical about coffee, Jareth makes coffee in the sexy matt black La Marzocco using an 18g basket and no splitter, so you’re getting a 20g hit. The customer really gets the best side of the deal here!
Supplied by Yatala-based Supreme Roasters, my ‘Beach’ daily blend is hardcore. 40% Columbian, it’s smooth, dark and rich with shades of caramel and hazelnut. Caffeine on steroids. Just the sort of coffee that Melbournians love to claim as their own. Except that it’s not; this is ours!
The single origin rotates between several beans, such as Kenyan Candy, Sumatran Mandehling and Honduras Cup of Excellence (one of the best beans Honduras has produced).
Of course it’s not just about the beans, but also about the barista, and Jareth (who doesn’t look one bit like the Goblin King) makes a mean cup!
For non-coffee drinkers there are plenty of choices (a great range of teas and Parkers organic juices) plus a Crave Couverture hot chocolate. Made from 70% dark chocolate flake, it’s an indulgent treat for adults. There’s regular hot chockie for the kids.
But great coffee wasn’t enough. Daark customers wanted more, so a brunch menu was born. Daark has a tiny little hole in the wall kitchen so, by necessity, the menu started Sydney-style – concise, based around breads brought in from elsewhere. Breakfast of smashed avocado on thyme-infused sourdough adorned with fresh herbs; smoked salmon with fresh dill mayo on a fresh bagel; fruit loaves of pear, raspberry and banana – simple fare to grab and take away.
With the employment of well-known chef, Scott Kelly, the menu has had a major shake-up. Loyal diners will be ecstatic; they have a double win. Favourites (bruschetta, pulled pork, and slow-cooked lamb) are still on the menu, and new additions of some smart dishes such as Eggs Bene with pink peppercorn béarnaise, some top notch salads and a Crispy potato, parsnip and Leek Rosti (straddling brekkie and lunch) take the menu up a notch. Prices are still down, with brekkie under $15 and lunch under $18.
“The café is a labour of love for us. It’s what we really wanted to do: to have great coffee and a good community feel. We want to make a consistent product and make people feel as welcome as possible.”
With excellent coffee, high quality food and great service, it’s little wonder that Daark has become wildly popular in a very short time. What started as a niche espresso bar, much of it to take away, is turning full circle. With an excellent chef on board and food at the right price, tables are filling fast. First in best fed.
So, if you’re planning a visit to the Daark side for a coffee at peak hour, you might have to be prepared to take away!
2/41 Musgrave Avenue, Chirn Park, Ph: 07 5667 9339
Open: Mon – Sat 6.30am – 2pm
NOTE: This review has also been published on Blank Gold Coast.